Tailored ceremonies

The standard, Hollywood-friendly wedding vow has been heard so often that most people could recite them without the help of a celebrant—“I [insert name], take you, [insert name], to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, for richer and poorer, blah, blah, blah.”

Those words (and variations on them) are perfectly functional, but they’re a little one-size-fits-all, wedding-by-numbers for some.

Almost every element of a wedding, including vows, can be tailored to suit the people getting hitched. The exceptions include the legal bits like the Monitum (the statement pertaining to the Marriage Act) and signing the register. Outside of that, if the couple want to wear neon pink, go nude, recite vows in Klingon or do it all with their eyes shut, that’s a matter of (questionable) personal taste.

Civil celebrant Penny McKee from The Vow Factor says putting a personal spin on proceedings brings an added dimension that reflects the couple, the guests and the setting.

“Like a live show a wedding ceremony involves space, action and audience. And true to any ceremony is symbolism, tradition and a sense of reverence,” she says. “The focus on each of these depends on the couple.”

Crowd pleasers
Involving guests, who are essentially invited to witness and give the thumbs up to the union, is one way to get creative. McKee says the celebrant can ask those gathered to declare their support for the marriage. “[They respond with] a simple ‘we will’,” she says. “This can happen after the parents have been asked to give their blessings.” 

From the exchange of rings to the cake cutting, weddings are rife with symbolism but for those who wish to, there’s always room for more. “The lighting of a candle or the pouring of wine from two family glasses into one can be powerful,” says McKee. Take advantage of the location: do something with sand at a beach wedding, for instance.

After the rings, vows are the most potent symbol in the ceremony. “Wedding vows can be the defining moment of a ceremony,” McKee says. “Self composed or borrowed from elsewhere, vows should be given care and time … [there is] authenticity and sincerity if there is thought behind the vows.”

The service
“Each couple about to be married has a love story that involves a past, a present and a future,” McKee says. The bride and groom may wish the celebrant to thread elements of their story into the ceremony. Readings, song lyrics and the words of the celebrant all help define the feel and language of the moment.

Creating a ceremony that’s special and unique involves talking to and sharing your story with the celebrant who will find appropriate ways to tell it. Sitting down one-on-one with the celebrant isn't vital—with the marvels of Skype, email and mobile phones McKee says that technically, the couple doesn’t have to meet the celebrant until the wedding rehearsal when the legal paperwork is finalised. “However, it is very rare to not to meet the couple at least once prior to the ceremony,” she says.

Although most celebrants will allow couples to personalise certain elements of the ceremony, mostly through the choice of readings and verses recited at the ceremony, not all will compose a new ceremony from scratch (which takes around twenty hours)—so be clear with them about how much you want to customise before booking.

The best way to find a celebrant? “Word of mouth or based on weddings you have attended,” McKee says. “However it is then up to the couple to ask the celebrant questions to ensure they book the right person.” Ask for recommendations and samples of readings. “Look for a celebrant who listens with enthusiasm when you describe the ceremony you would like and asks questions about you.”

- Think about and discuss what you both want
- Be yourselves when selecting readings, vows, music
- Be open
- Be joyous
- Keep it simple
- Trust the celebrant to respect your story, ideas and vision.

- Be disinterested or indifferent

Photo by: Photo by Eriatte via Flickr
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